1. Research breeds before choosing a dog.
Though you may have always dreamed of owning a poodle or a German shepherd, it's important to know what you're in for with each type of dog before you head to the shelter or breeder. "It's critical the breed matches your lifestyle," JoAnn Parsons wrote on TODAY's Facebook page, and dog expert Sarah Wilson couldn't agree more.
“We fall in love with the form but don’t always realize that temperaments can be extremely different," Wilson told TODAY.com. “Often people think all dogs are the same and they just have different exteriors."
Every breed has a personality of its own and knowing in advance what exactly that is could save you a lot of trouble down the road. "People seem upset when a Lab is chewing," Wilson said. "But that’s what they do.”
2. Get ready to sacrifice your time.
Much like having a child, adopting a dog means you take on the responsibility of a living being whose needs often come before your own desires. That usually translates to giving up more time for your pet than you might be used to — or want to.
For Melissa Bragg Krishnamurthy, that meant an end to her pre-pet spontaneous plans. "No more last minutes plans for day, weekend or week-long trips," she told TODAY. "You have to find someone to watch and let them out because you can't always take them with you."
Wilson advises that if you're not prepared to make that kind of sacrifice, you shouldn't go buy that dog collar just yet. “If you don’t have that time to give, it’s not yet time to have a dog," she said. "They’re not creatures of isolation. You need to be available to them.”
3. If you have kids, schedule a home visit before adopting or buying.
Even if you love a dog and that dog loves you back, don't commit to making that pooch a part of the family until you know that the dog is a fan of your kids, too. “If you have children, find a dog who loves your children, not just tolerates,” Wilson said.
Wilson recommends taking time to schedule a home visit with the dog to see how he or she interacts with your kids. The kind of behavior you should look for? Ears back, tail wagging and a sense that the dog wants to be around your child more than anything.
“When in doubt, look for similar things as you would when looking for a child or nanny," Wilson said. "You are looking for an animal that is going to spend a decade in close contact with your child. Take your time.”
4. They can cost you — a lot.
If you think the cost of your furry new friend stops at the adoption or purchasing fee and dog food, think again. In addition to the usual shots at the veterinarian, heart worm medication, flea and tick prevention and additional procedures can cost a pretty penny.
"I would give up things like Christmas and this summer's vacation in order to pay for two very expensive surgeries to keep my rescued dogs healthy and happy," dog owner Chris Donevant-Haines wrote TODAY's Facebook page. "I am a forever mom and that means sacrifice."
TODAY Facebook fan Melissa Valenzuela, whose dog was diagnosed with early arthritis, recommends looking into pet insurance before you get a dog as it may help alleviate the cost of medical expenses later on.
5. Puppy training is tough stuff.
Everyone loves puppies — and why wouldn't they? They're adorable, impossibly small and they are ready to spend their entire lives with you. But it's important to remember that these tiny, furry friends are, after all, just babies. And that means requiring a lot more training and attention than an adult dog would.
"I would have liked to have known that puppies are pretty needy for the first several months," Jane McNally wrote on TODAY's Facebook page.
Whether it's chewing on the furniture or getting into the cookie jar, count on your puppy to try it out. "Puppies are adorable, which is lucky for them, because they are destructive," wrote Facebook user Nichole Babka.
6. They become a part of the family
The most essential thing to know before you get a dog is that, soon enough, you will wonder how you ever lived without that furball.
"I never understood why people were so crazy about their dogs — until I got mine," said Merylina Santiago Asselin. "I wish I knew how good it would feel to have him around. I would not have waited to have one! I love my dog!"
"How you can love something so much that will pee in your house, chew up your shoes, eat the food off your plate when you're not looking, dig up your yard and jump on you when you're dressed to go out and get muddy footprints on your new white shirt?" asked Rochelle N. Krok on TODAY's Facebook page.
That's because, as Jenny Sargent Parham wrote, "They really are like your children."
(Amy Eley and Emily Wickwire, TODAY)
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